Against a promise to stop facilitating the trade in body parts of tigers, leopards and other endangered big cats, eBay and Facebook are selling these commercial ‘products’ illegally.
The Times newspaper’s investigation found that sellers are offering products such as handbags for up to £5000 each. These products have been made from the skins of protected species despite both eBay and Facebook banning them from their websites.
International rules which regulate the trade in endangered species allow items made before 1947 to be sold but the sellers admit that they have no evidence that their products meet the criteria.
Apparently, Facebook forbids posts which promote the sales of any part or skin of an animal. EBay bans the sale of body parts in endangered species of any age.
These two large companies joined 21 other technology businesses to work with the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online.
It is ironic that executives from eBay joined the Duke of Cambridge at a conference in London where the representatives of 50 countries signed a declaration pledging to fight the illegal trade in wildlife body parts and living animals. This trade is worth £18 billion annually.
Lack of compliance with age of products
One seller on eBay said, “I don’t think the coat is particularly old-I just put vintage as it is not brand-new”. He was referring to an ocelot coat. Ocelot have a wonderful coat and they were extensively hunted until it became illegal to do so. However, it appears that it is still happening.
On Facebook Marketplace a “real leopardskin handbag” was on offer. The seller claimed that she had bought the handbag 30 to 40 years ago. She had no idea of the actual date however. Another example was the sale of a clouded leopard rug from about 1920. However, the seller on eBay had no proof of its age.
Failure to enforce policies
Both Facebook and eBay are failing to enforce their own policies. Once they had been alerted by The Times they removed the items from their websites.
The problem for both eBay and Facebook is that they are extremely large websites and the administrators have lost control over content. On eBay there are 1.2 billion listings at any one time. The company’s head of regulation said it was impossible to search all the items for violations of their policy.
A Facebook spokesman said:
“Our commerce policies make it clear that posts on Facebook and on Marketplace may not promote the sale of any animals including pets, livestock or any part, pelt, fur or skin from an animal. The post flagged to us by The Times has been removed. We are constantly working to improve the methods we use to identify potential violations of our policies and encourage our community to report any content they feel doesn’t belong on Facebook.”
The message from the spokesman is that the administrators of Facebook have lost control of content. They rely on users of their website to report breaches. This is a worrying state of affairs because it must invariably lead to a huge number of violations of policy. It makes one extremely pessimistic about the survival of wild cat species on the planet.